8 February 2014, by gj
Just in case you are one of the many gardeners understandably confused about the difference between a hybrid seed and a GMO seed, here is the difference:
A hybrid seed is one taken from a plant that was crossed with another similar plant. Bees can cross pollinate one tomato with another as well as many other veggies naturally. You could do it yourself as well.
A GMO is a cross between a plant and something else, like a tomato and a fish or corn and e-coli. This must be done in a laboratory by genetic engineers.
That being said…
Mandolin and I were in our go-to store for organics recently, when I heard a woman there showing and giving samples of Honeymoon melon.
“Yes!” I thought, “I have heard of that heirloom melon and now is my chance to score some seeds!”
So home one came and it was wonderfully delicious and abundant with seeds.
Remove the floaters.
Happily I shared it with my Facebook group Gardenaholics Anonymous. They are wonderfully knowledgeable and always willing to help.
I learned from Pat Q. that this is not the right season for heirlooms, and upon doing a little more research discovered that the name in this case is actually a trademarked logo and not the heirloom I thought it was.
Now some gardeners will tell you that you cannot save hybrid seeds, but you will never hear that from us.
The only thing is that the veggies you get will differ somehow from the parent. They can very well differ in a way you won’t even notice.
Let the seeds dry.
It can be fun to see what they produce. So I rinsed the seeds, removed the ones that floated, let dry and packaged most but also tested a few for germination.
Produce stickers make great packet labels.
We’ll see what happens this summer. It will be fun and who knows, it could be the best melons ever.
Here’s how to save seeds using fermentation, which removes more of the fruit’s flesh from the seeds.
Categories: all about seeds, How to Grow
7 February 2014, by gj
Here comes the rhubarb.
Although many herbs and fruits will bear for many years, most gardeners grow vegetables as annuals. There are some exceptions that can, depending on your climate of course, be harvested for years to come.
Perennials are different than self-seeding annuals, but for the topic at hand we are grouping them together.
Here in Zone 5/6 we can count on:
1. Lovage is technically considered an herb, but we list it here because it is used as a vegetable. The leaves particularly and the stems as well can be used in place of celery. Be sure you have enough room before you plant it, as lovage can easily grow 3 ft. wide and over 6 ft. tall.
2. Good King Henry is a new plant for our garden this year. It is reputed to taste much like asparagus, but with a longer harvest period. Eat the leaves raw or steamed. Give it a space of its own, as it will reseed with abandon.
3. Horseradish can easily be grown from a root purchased at your local market. It can be quite invasive, so we recommend planting it in a pot that sits on top of a rock slate, as the tiny roots will do their best to get out. Be forewarned, fresh horseradish packs an amazing punch.
4. Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes are as delightful to see grow as they are to eat. A relative of sunflowers, their blooms are similar but smaller. Even better, they smell like chocolate. Harvest the roots after the flowers fall over. Enjoy like a water chestnut or as a potato substitute.
Mmm… smells like chocolate.
5. Radicchio aka Italian Dandelion is a relative of what many consider to be an invasive weed. “You’re planting what?” was my husband Mandolin Jones’ reaction when I mentioned ‘dandelion’ but he was okay with ‘radicchio’. According to Art, the master gardener from Baker Creek, we should get 2 years of harvest here in Zone 5/6. So we intend to replant again in year two and see what happens. Some perennials last longer than others.
6. Rhubarb is one of the first veggies to pop through the soil in spring. It will last basically forever, as long as it is cared for. When you see it is looking overcrowded, dig some of the roots up and share. We found out the hard way that the best thing to do with dug roots is to pot them up for a year before transplanting. Live, garden, and learn.
7. Asparagus is probably the best known perennial vegetable. Harvest lightly after the first year, a little more the second, then have at it afterwards. We have heard of asparagus beds still thriving after 20 years.
8. Walking Onions aka Perennial Onions have a few other common names as well. They reproduce themselves by ‘walking’, that is, bending a stem over and dropping little bulbules or topsets on the soil. Use like scallions.
9. New Zealand Spinach is not actually a spinach, but a wonderful self reseeding substitute. Be sure to plant it in a relatively weed free area and let it have fun.
10. Garlic is one plant we never thought of as a perennial. A coworker discovered this by accident, after neglecting her garden one year. Her garlic also produced little topsets and replanted itself. It has been 3 years now and she continues to get garlic without ever planting more. Not just greens, but normal sized cloves. You know we will be trying this!
Walking onion preparing to replant itself.
NOTE: Before planting any perennials, be sure they will grow in your area and not be invasive.
Specific growing information on many of these edibles can be found on the list to the right.
Categories: gardening, perennials
4 February 2014, by gj
You Can Grow That! is a wonderful group of garden writers led by C. L. Fornari whose mission is to take a few minutes each month to encourage others to garden.
Occasionally C. L. will have an optional topic suggestion, and I’m sure when she posted this one her intention was to have others actually insert the name of the town they live in.
But that’s where the snag came in. You see, we don’t live in a town, not even close.
We live in an Unincorporated Community of somewhere around 5000 people.
Small ‘town’ living doesn’t get much smaller than that.
We put in a roadside garden.
We have a grocery store, 2 churches and a post office. We even have a dollar store.
We have no sidewalks or street lights. We don’t even have a traffic light.
You could probably fit all the stop signs in the back of your truck.
Of course, the police would make you put them back.
The bank is in the same building as the farm & garden; you get the idea.
One neighbor grew a fence.
So how could we put up a post on this topic?
Then the idea struck… let’s turn this over to you.
Go ahead, insert the name of the town you live in.
How could you make where you live more beautiful?
Perhaps you can get other gardeners to Plant a Row for the Hungry, or start a community garden.
How about starting an annual Seed Swap Day or Plant Exchange.
Maybe form a Garden Club that will spruce up some of the local community areas.
(We don’t have those either.)
And another decorated theirs.
What do you say?
Where are you from, how’s the weather, & what are your thoughts on the subject?
We would love to hear what you think!
Click on the link to read more You Can Grow That! posts.
Categories: gardening people, places & things, you can grow that
1 February 2014, by gj
Potatoes often seem to get overlooked when people plant their vegetable gardens.
A friend of mine commented “Why bother growing potatoes? They are pretty cheap to buy and there can’t be that much difference in taste. Really, a potato is just a potato.”
There were a few things my friend didn’t know:
1. Potatoes have been found to have the most chemical pesticide and herbicide residue on them of any grocery store vegetable or fruit. The pesticides keep the bad bugs, particularly the Colorado potato beetle, aphids and grubs, at bay.
When the spuds are ready to be harvested, they are also doused with herbicides to kill off the greens making the process easier.
Potato farmers have admitted to growing a different crop to feed their own families. That says a lot.
2. Commercially grown potatoes can easily be a year old before they get to the grocery store. That is the reason that, even with organic grocery store potatoes, they tend to last only a few weeks before sprouting. What you are eating is really a less than fresh veggie. When you grow your own and store them correctly, they can last for months and still be fresher than store bought.
3. Fresh homegrown potatoes taste remarkably better than store bought. Even though almost everyone knows how much better a homegrown tomato tastes, most gardeners are surprised at the difference in other vegetables, particularly in potatoes. There is nothing quite like ‘grabbling’ a new potato, really really new, and enjoying it soon after as part of a meal.
4. Potatoes are inexpensive to grow. In a pinch you can use your leftover ones from the previous year, and you can use store bought potatoes. It is better though to use potatoes grown for the purpose of replanting, known as seed potatoes. These are better at warding off disease than other potatoes. If you can find them at a local farm & garden store you won’t have to pay for shipping.
5. Growing taters is easy. Just plop them down on your garden soil about 8-12 inches apart. You can cut the larger ones, but you don’t need to. Cover with straw or other natural mulch. Once the stems get to be about 8 inches tall, add more straw. Keep going until you see flowers or until the plants are 3 or so feet high. When the tops die back, harvest.
6. The ROI, or Return on Investment, is pretty darn good. You can easily get 6 pounds of potatoes for every pound you plant. If they get hit with blight, your return will be less. We have heard of some much higher than 6:1 as well.
7. They are easy to store. Potatoes can be held fresh in a cool spot for months, canned, frozen whole or prepared, and dehydrated.
8. Variety. There are thousands of different kinds of potatoes. They range in color from the typical white or Irish potato, to yellow, red and even blue. They come in a range of shapes as well. Some potatoes are better for storing, while others grow faster or taste better. Check out some seed catalogs for more specifics.
9. And finally, potatoes are versatile. We read once that there are more ways to prepare a potato than any other veggie.
Think about it.
They can be baked, boiled, roasted, french fried, mashed, scalloped, stuffed and baked again, made into chips, baked au gratin, cut into curly fries, made into hash browns, pancaked, home fries…
Do you grow your own potatoes?
Categories: How to Grow, potatoes
31 January 2014, by gj
Even the Guardians of the Garden could not keep the polar vortex away.
So maybe the temperatures you are suffering through are the ones we would be happy to see, that’s not the point.
We’re pretty much all having a nasty winter; but as North-easterners, there are a few things we’ve learned that might help you:
1. Expect it to happen again. This winter isn’t over, and the weather tends to be cyclical. That being said-
2. Have at least 3 weeks of food on hand if you have room, including water. Even stock a few items you can eat right out of the can in case of power loss. Don’t forget a manual can opener.
3. Similarly, have a way to heat your house. If you already do, try to have a back-up. Be prepared to block off unused rooms in case of emergency. Hang a few quilts, er… maybe some beach towels (just kidding) in doorways to prevent heat loss and stay close to whatever heat source you have.
4. Protect the pipes. Did you know your water pipes can freeze and literally break if they get too cold? Heat wrapping them is a good back-up plan. Also, let them drip just a bit to keep the water flowing. In an emergency, it is better to turn them off and drain them; a bother that could save you a major headache in the long run.
5. Prepare adult and kid Blizzard Boxes. That’s what we call them anyway. For the kids, age appropriate games, toys and puzzles to keep them busy. Be sure at least some of them don’t require electricity. Add a few snacks they don’t otherwise get, those kind of things. These will keep your kids entertained on unexpected days off from school.
For the grown-ups maybe a few movies, a good book, and also snacks. Chocolate goes a long way during stressful times for both young and older.
If the winter ends and you didn’t need them, hooray! Have a little party!
6. Don’t forget the pets. Be sure to have enough food on hand for them. Also, since they sense stress in their loved ones, a little Blizzard Box for them would be wonderful too.
7. Preparedness doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. Thermal underwear and blankets go a long way to keep you warm, yet are quite thin. Bubble wrap on your windows will help keep the warm air in. A small camping stove will let you heat water if the power is out.
We in the north really do feel for you, our winter has been nasty as well.
But for us it is just a matter of colder, or more snow…
No pun intended, but its a matter of degree.
Stay warm and safe out there, and if ever our temps are going to go above 100F, we’ll call on you for help!
Categories: preparedness, special posts
28 January 2014, by gj
Dear Gardening Friends,
Since we began posting late in the fall of 2009, we have had many occasions to celebrate-
A graduation, weddings, beginnings at college, the birth of our grandson.
We also have had the wonderful experience to get to connect with many like minded gardeners both seasoned and new, professionals in the field, wonderful entrepreneurs who love gardening, garden writers, and all around fantastic people whom we are happy everyday to be linked to.
By answering questions and listening/reading what others say, we have learned a great deal, and our gardens show it.
That gift is also priceless.
Our friendly group Gardenaholics Anonymous is fast approaching 3000 members, and if you look to the right you will see this blog is about to break 200,000 wonderful people who took the time to stop by.
Even our personal page on Facebook stays just shy of that ominous 5000 mark and the new page past 1400.
So this post is a Big Grin Thank You! to all of you for being a part of our lives, even if our only connection is through the written word- we are still connected.
Very soon this site will reach the Quarter Million mark.
Can you believe it?
If you had suggested that might happen 4 years ago, we would have laughed so hard we probably would have gotten the hiccups.
So as another Thank You! we are planning something (Shhh!!! It is a surprise!)
For now, we just want you to know how much y’all mean to us, and we hope we have helped you in someway because you sure have made a great difference to us!
Namaste and Happy Harvesting!
Categories: Addiction, jonesen'
26 January 2014, by gj
This is the final post in this series, as we come to the present.
It was in 2010 that we made the garden smile, with a simple truckload of mushroom soil. If ever we are asked to recommend one soil amendment, that would be it.
Every single part of the garden thrived and the larder was overflowing with filled canning jars. It was only recently that the last jar was opened.
2011, from memory.
Likewise the abundance continued into the following year. We were starting to see more of a problem with critters, though; attracted by all the food I guess.
This was part of the inspiration, along with the difficulties we know more urban gardeners face, that led to a design for a garden system.
The following winter was extremely mild with an early spring, and the squirrels in particular were everywhere. Mandolin Jones started referring to the garden as the ‘Squirrel Buffet‘.
Yeah, it was that bad.
As if that was not enough the weeds were also quite prolific.
This must be what it is like to live in a warmer region.
The first year.
We were armed though. With the garden design built, we were able to protect most of what we grew.
In the roadside garden 1 of every 5 tomatoes was being bitten by squirrels, in spite of the deterrents we used.
In the new system all were safe.
In 2013 the squirrels were not as bad but the weeds were worse in the roadside garden. The entire front row was covered in a think layer of newspaper and landscaping fabric, and filled with pots of herbs.
That worked very well to keep the weeds out, and container plants are easier to take care of when they are grouped together.
More perennials were added that year, including a number of fruit trees and berry canes. We got our first serious harvest of cranberries too.
The Jones’ Garden System
Most of the experimentation took place closer to the house.
With the garden design, now being referred to as the Jones’ Garden System, we were able to extend our harvest by 3 weeks on each end of the season.
It sported the first ripe tomato in the area, and didn’t lose a single one to critters. The beans were also producing sooner, and continued to be harvested longer into the fall.
The vertical aspect also did quite well, and was so much fun having squash and melons growing up and out the top. It was so neat to see the fruit hanging down and growing completely free of pests.
There were hardly any weeds to pull either.
It was so much easier in fact that we are now in the process of turning the roadside garden over primarily to perennials. We will still need to protect them from critters of course, but it won’t be as much of an issue.
I’m thinkin’ we’re going to have extra time on our hands; time well spent canning.
Categories: Addiction, gardening, Keeping up with the Joneses
24 January 2014, by gj
1. “The best way to plant peppers is too close together.” was a tip my father taught me. As long as they have enough air about them, planting them closer than normally recommended lets them help support each other. We plants ours 8-10″ apart for sweet bells, closer than the normally recommended 12-18″.
2. Contrary to what others may tell you, you can save the seeds from hybrid plants. What you get may be different than the parent plant, but in many cases it doesn’t matter. So go ahead and try a few tomato seeds from the one you got at the market. We got a delicious pink tomato that way one year.
3. The peak time to pick herbs is first thing in the morning. This is when they have the best flavor.
4. The best way to eat cherry tomatoes is straight from the garden while they are still warm. Yum! However, be careful eating any vegetable before washing it first, especially anything that developed on or close to the soil.
5. One of the best tips we’ve heard was about staking Tomatoes. Whereas wire can burn the stems, and twine can also cause damage, using pieces of old pantyhose is ideal. The hose ‘gives’ with the plant just enough, and heck the price is right! We have also tried it on pole beans and cucumbers and it worked well there too.
6. Ever hear of the Three Sisters of the Fields? They are corn, squash and beans growing together. The beans grow up the corn and the squash grows at the base of the corn, providing each other with necessary nutrients as well as discouraging little varmints (raccoons in particular) from nibblin’ the corn. Traditionally, dry beans, field or popcorn, and winter squash were planted together, as they are all harvested at the end of the season.
7. Basil plants do well when planted among tomatoes. They are slower to bolt because the tomatoes give them some shade, and the basil adds a nice flavor to the tomatoes.
8. Think twice before planting, or plant out of the way of the rest of your garden: Horseradish, Mints including oregano, sweet marjoram, balms; in many climates they can be very invasive. Likewise many other perennials.
9. Got Seeds? If you have them left over from last year you can still use them. Seeds do lose some of their potency over time, so the germination rate will drop a bit, but toss ‘em in anyway. You may be surprised at the results!
10. Compost: The ultimate recycling. Don’t throw any meat products into your compost, and Heaven forbid, don’t throw in any root ends of the perennials mentioned above.
11. It is nice throw a few earthworms into your compost heap every so often though. They love it and you will benefit.
12. A few flowers in the vegetable garden help attract bees which promote fertilization of your plants. Nasturtiums and sunflowers are especially good for attracting bees, plus they are edible.
13. If you wish to go the other way, and plant a few vegetables in the flower garden, we would recommend squashes and gourds. This family of vegetables gets beautiful flowers (mostly also edible) and are comparatively easy to grow. There are also some peas and beans that do well and are quite pretty when trellised, Purple Bean Hyacinth comes to mind, though I don’t think it is edible. Scarlet Runner Bean has pretty red flowers. Some gardeners plant okra as an ornamental, the flowers are just that gorgeous.
14. Don’t handle bean plants when they are wet, it can spread disease.
15. The well-rounded garden will want to sport at least a showing of herbs. Lavender and sage are easy to contain perennials and quite prolific. Dill plants are tall, with delicate looking leaves and a wonderful fragrance.
Do you have a good garden tip? We would love to hear it. Please share it in the comment section below and thanks!
Categories: gardening, How to Grow
20 January 2014, by gj
Did you know that corn is the only grain we eat like a vegetable, quinoa is a vegetable we eat like a grain, and amaranth is a vegetable we grow also as a grain and as an ornamental plant?
Confused? Don’t be.
See the red, yellow, purple, pink and blue?
Let’s start with corn, one of the foods that means Summer to a lot of people. Whether you boil it and slather it with butter, or marinate it in beer and throw it on the grill, corn is a vegetable we all enjoy.
Except it is really a grain, and if you want you can grow it that way too. Simply choose a variety that is recommended for grinding or is labeled as a ‘field’ or ‘dry’ corn. Grow as you would sweet corn, but allow the kernels to dry on the stalks.
We were very fortunate to be given some seeds for Glass Gem corn shown above from Sarah Henry, a wonderful Facebook equaintance. We intend to plant them, save many of the seeds, and try grinding our own cornmeal from others.
Mother Earth News has a great link to learn how to grind it at home.
Ready when the weather breaks.
Quinoa is a plant that is considered to be the ‘grain of choice’ these days. Vegetarians especially like it because it has the complex proteins previously thought to only be found in meat. It also makes a good substitute for rice or wheat in many recipes.
Quinoa is another tall plant, easily growing to 5-6 ft. We did purchase a new, shorter and faster to harvest variety from Bountiful Gardens called Apellwea.
Want to be a revolutionary and grow food in your front yard?
The variety Loves Lies Bleeding looked spectacular in the garden many years ago, but we had no idea you could thresh the seeds to use as a grain.
We were at Penn State University recently, and found it on the menu as a side dish. It was wonderful, and we knew at first taste it would be back in the garden again.
There are a number of colors of amaranth to choose from.
Like the other grains listed here, they also grow tall. Some varieties can get to be 8 ft. high.
Have you grown your own grains? Please share!
The story behind Glass Gem Seeds.
17 January 2014, by gj
It is wonderful every year to get things just a little more organized and free up some wasted time that is better spent gardening.
Here are a few ideas we have found to help:
The garden notebook keeps growing.
- A garden notebook can keep a lot of the information from previous years as well as what is collected throughout the year for the upcoming season. Include a flash-drive for what you find online.
- Likewise a clipboard can not only keep you planting maps handy, it is an easy way to hold seed packets that are slated to go out to the garden for planting. Just use the clip to keep them safe from spilling or blowing away.
- A potting table allows for an area to organize your supply of soils, amendments and fertilizers.
Right at our fingertips.
- We use a free seed rack from the local farm & garden store to keep seeds organized. This year the stash has been reduced from 3 racks to one, to further simplify garden planning and seed ordering.
Oh… there you are!
One thing that eludes us is keeping track of tools.
It is as if the small ones intentionally hide, and the larger ones are like chameleons blending into their surroundings.
- Here is a solution we are going to use this upcoming spring: Use duct tape, now also called ‘duck’ tape or paint to brightly color the handles on your tools, making them easier to find. We have in the past used the wonderful idea of adding an old mailbox to your garden area to hold tools.
We did learn to be careful it is mounted level or pointing towards the ground, otherwise rain water can get in.
Some lessons are always learned the hard way.
What tips do you have for staying organized?
Categories: gardening, jonesen', saving money & time, techniques